Lent before Easter: Small Decisions, Major Consequences
It isn’t light reading, but some of us glance through each issue of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. In the latest, E. Christian Brugger has an intriguing article entitled “Free Choice, Self-Determination and Contraceptive Acts”. Brugger holds the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and he is also a leader of the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington.
What Brugger wishes to explore here is how our free choice at any given moment tends to determine future attitudes and decisions. This applies to anything, but he uses contraception as an example. The process goes something like this:
- An ordinary Catholic couple uses reason in making what may initially be a hard decision to contracept. Result: Their resolution of the question causes them to lay aside formerly countervailing arguments as now “settled”.
- The same couple pursues the new decision to contracept through the use of their will. Result: They gradually adopt the volitional reflex of preferring the values gained by contraception to the values of child-raising and family life about which they were once somewhat conflicted.
- The same couple grows increasingly habituated to the new value system. Result: They go from being reticent in discussing the issue to freely discussing contraceptive decisions with everyone from pharmacists to store clerks to friends, living increasingly in the ambience of a contraceptive mentality.
- The same couple becomes defensive when their decision is challenged by others, such as a courageous pastor or their more seriously Catholic acquaintances. Result: They begin to see the Church’s teaching on procreation as irrelevant to their lives, and if pressed may break with the Church.
Brugger is right; we need to realize that free choice is self-determinative. With respect to our Catholic Faith and life in Christ, we do well to reflect on the potential steps arising from a bad choice: Consideration; Decision; Pursuit; Habit; Alliances and Hostilities; and, not infrequently, Abandonment of God.
It can, of course, work the other way, too. That's why it is so important to engage in the discipline of sometimes choosing what is less pleasing to the natural man. This is just like putting Lent before Easter. Think about it.
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